I have a lot of DVDs. Not as many as some. But more than others. I bought most of them at the many Blockbuster Four [previewed] DVDs for $20 sales -- first because I like to watch movies more than once, so why not own them? Secondly, because they were cheap.
But now that I've watched some of them more than ten times [Blade Runner director's cut anyone?] I'm suddenly hooked on the bonus features. Particularly the feature where the director, or the director and various other people attached to the movie, comment on it, while we're all watching it together.
I just watched Gladiator that way. Needless to say, I still love that movie. But I have been dying to know how the opening battle was filmed. Everything about it looks so different from the rest of the movie. I wondered if it was shot in 16 mm because it seemed so grainy. How much of the unusual, almost pixilated effect was done in post? I was curious about the unusual look of the entire sequence. Somebody tell me. So when I heard the director of photography and the editor introducing themselves as the movie began, I got all excited in an educational way. Enough to put down my pretzels and dip. But Ridley Scott was also on board, and the other guys turned into toadies from the get-go. I hardly heard them speak at all. And Ridley was all about giving the actors their props. Russell Crowe was perfect.[YES] Connie Nielsen was perfect. [Sorry, I thought she was just WRONG but I was impressed that she had more knowledge of the Roman Empire than the experts hired as consultants]. Joaquin Phoenix was perfect with white makeup and something to make his eyes dark and brooding.[YES. He should have won the best supporting actor, but no one realized how well he was acting. Everyone thought he was just playing himself.] Oliver Reed was also perfect, albeit dead before filming was completed.
But, the only thing worthwhile that anyone said about the crazy battle at the beginning was when the DP mentioned, almost in passing, that they shot it at 6 to 8 frames a second. Really? That's it? What kind/speed of film did you use? Did you push it? What kind of lenses? Talk to me Antonio or whatever your name was. Everyone knows that the only people who listen to the commentary over the movie are film students and people like me who have no life. So TALK about how you made the movie, already. And Ridley, don't spend all your time giving tongue to people like the guy who positioned the chair that's out of focus in the background in one of the tents. I don't give a rip.
Two Weeks Notice, which should have had hilarious commentary with the director, Marc Lawrence, joined by Sandy "Bollocks" and her pal, Hugh Grant, was a dud. The only laugh moment I had was when Sandy made fun of Hugh for pronouncing "renaissance" as "renn-A-sanse," instead of "rennaSONSE," which was pretty silly of him. But soooooo British.
I've watched Groundhog Day every Groundhog Day since it came out. And more. Fifteen, maybe twenty times. I finally watched it with director/co-writer Harold Ramis commenting. With nobody to stop him, he had an annoying habit of giving us the line that was about to be said and then saying it along with the actor, so it was like hearing an echo. And one time he even said, "I think this is some great dialog, probably because I wrote it." Then he proceeded to speak it along with Bill Murray.
One bit he did was funny the first three times, but the fourth time he said, "Have I told you that I kept the coat that he's [Murray] wearing?" -- it smelled of old socks. He also has a thing about Andie MacDowell. I was somewhat embarrassed to hear that he would forget to say "cut" because he was so mesmerized by her natural beauty or whatever magic she holds over him.
I recently watched Lars and the Real Girl again. That was a quirky, sweet, and strangely philosophical movie. So I was hoping for some fun bonus features. Ryan Gosling stayed in character with the anatomically correct "Bianca" sitting next to him for an interview, which was very funny, but I was disappointed there was no director commentary. The director needed to 'splain himself, because I noticed two weird things in the movie, not that having a blow up doll for a leading lady didn't qualify. First I noticed a lot of pink everywhere -- clothing, flowers, an entire bedroom, even a pink bowling ball that Ryan Gosling used. What was that all about? And the other odd detail was that Ryan's fly was open more than once. I even went back to check. Yep, not real obvious, but that zipper was in the down position. Maybe that's why there's no director's commentary.
George Clooney's director commentary for Good Night, and Good Luck, with his good friend, co-writer, and producer, Grant Heslov, is rich with information and punctuated with his deadpan humor. The film was shot on color stock with a virtually black and white set, then transferred to black and white film afterward. They didn't have an actor play Senator McCarthy. Instead they used archival footage of the HUAC hearings with McCarthy's actual ravings and rantings at the witnesses and later, at the media. Ironically, there were people in some audiences who complained that the actor who played McCarthy was too over the top, not knowing they were seeing the real McCoy.
Clooney deadpans a riff about treating women on the set the way women were treated back in the fifties, along with several funny asides about the people he worked with. At one point, when Heslov mocks Clooney's second grade artistic skills, he replies, "Second grade was the best six years of my life."
Another favorite director in this soon-to-be-up-for-an-award genre of director commentary was J.J. Abrams who was joined by a hooting and laughing gaggle of actors, special effects peeps, ADs, DPs, and a couple of relatives or two. They dealt out a lot of trivia and had as much fun as you would expect a bunch of thirty-somethings to have, sitting around ragging on each other.
Probably my favorite bonus feature of all time was for Hot Shots Part Deux. From years ago. No director commentary. But the documentary with Charlie Sheen was hysterical. He did it all in character. Unfortunately, that was on the VHS version and I wonder if it's on the DVD?
Once again, Mrs. Linklater has the courage to ask the difficult questions.